Proponents of a proposed housing complex for people with disabilities in Delaware have spoken up while opponents have quieted down ahead of key votes by Delaware City Council.
Council in late February conducted a public hearing on multiple pieces of legislation aimed at allowing Del-Mor Dwellings Corp. to move forward with its plan to build 40 apartments on 3.6 acres at 250 Curtis St. The nonprofit organization would rent the units to people who have emotional, mental or physical disabilities.
The proposed development would sit in Delaware's Second Ward, which is represented by Councilwoman Lisa Keller.
After expressing "a lingering concern" about the density of the complex, Keller requested legislation involving the complex be taken to a third reading.
Keller asked for the delay because of the project's controversial nature, citing the number of calls, emails and other communications city officials have received in regard to the project.
Council could vote on the legislation at its meeting Monday, March 12.
Jim Wilson, executive director of Del-Mor Dwellings, said he's "reluctant" to reduce the density of the project a second time. The organization previously sought to build 48 units at the site before removing one of six buildings from its plans.
Delaware Mayor Carolyn Riggle said she thinks the debate over the proposed complex has died down.
"I think the controversy's kind of gone away," she said.
Vice Mayor Kent Shafer said he supports the project.
"I think what we gain by (approving) this project is far more than what we risk," he said.
Councilman George Hellinger said he supports the project and views the proposed lot as the proper site because it sits between an apartment complex and a single-family neighborhood.
"In my mind, it fits," he said.
While opponents and proponents of the project were well-represented at previous city meetings on the project, only supporters gave comments at the Feb. 26 public hearing.
Michael Shade, attorney for Del-Mor Dwellings, said the exhaustive review of the proposal by city officials over several meetings has been beneficial for the project.
"I don't know that I've ever been involved in a project that had more care and consideration (given to it) by the planning commission," he said. "Staff did a superb job in preparation and evaluation (of the project)."
Wilson said discussions with residents of the nearby Curtis Farms neighborhood have been civil and productive, even if some neighbors still hope the complex is not built.
"The thing we've tried to do incrementally throughout this process is really try to move from an 'us-and-them'-type of a conversation to more of a 'we'-type conversation," he said. "That's not an easy thing to do, but the fact of the matter is, we are all members of this community together."
Wilson said his organization expects to spend about $4 million building the rental complex.
"I don't know how many other developers are going to come onto this piece of property and spend that kind of money to create the architecture we're proposing to create here," he said. "It's not going to be a detriment to the entryway at Curtis Farms. It's going to be an enhancement in my mind."
Wilson said his organization's waiting list for housing is growing as council's decision approaches. He said the community has a "large, unmet need" for supportive housing.
"We have 57 people on a waiting list and we have people calling us every week," he said.